Ag Spectrum’s Unique Approach to Research Funding
“Typically funders come to us [researchers in general] with a jug and a hat and ask us to test their products. If we’re lucky, they will also provide a small amount of funding that can help to support our research,” says Dr. Patrick Brown, Professor of Plant Sciences at the University of California Davis.
The majority of the industry has shifted to this mindset because it allows companies’ technology to be tested by an “unbiased” third party. For researchers to make real discoveries and progress in understanding basic biology, however, they must find their own funding to support basic research, which is increasingly difficult due to continued decreases in public funding.
Dr. Brown and other esteemed scientists recognize this is not truly a win-win situation since it separates advancements for science from those needed by the ag industry.
“Ag Spectrum is different, and takes a unique approach to their investment in research. As a company, they are more interested in advancing basic science, than they are about testing and proving the validity of their products,” shared Dr. Brown.
Ag Spectrum works with a multitude of researchers across the nation who have a variety of specialties. For the past 30 years, advancements to the Maximum Farming System have been implemented based on research conducted by the collaboration of many scientists.
Two years ago, Cliff Ramsier, Technical Director and co-founder of Ag Spectrum approached Dr. Brown with an interest to discover the role of zinc in the plant’s production cycle, learn more about how foliar fertilizers work, and where they fit in the crop production cycle. While Dr. Brown was also interested in discovering this information, he shared that the methodology was simply not available.
“Without hesitation, Ag Spectrum was more than willing to make the investment,” said Dr. Brown, “They were willing to do this even if it provided no guarantee that Ag Spectrum’s products would be tested.”
“Ag Spectrum is different, and takes a unique approach to their investment in research. They are more interested in advancing basic science, than they are about testing and proving the validity of their products.” – Dr. Patrick Brown, University of California Davis
He continued, “Over two years we worked tirelessly to discover the processes and develop the methods required to understand the role of zinc in plants and to begin testing commercial products. In November 2013, we were advanced enough to submit a proposal to use the synchrotron at Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Illinois and at the Stanford Linear Accelerator in Palo Alto, California.”
A synchrotron (pictured below) is a type of particle accelerator that generates electron or photon beams that approach the speed of light. These beams are then focused on the plant tissue and vivid images of the location of zinc and other elements, right down to the sub-cellular level can be obtained. The machine is one of only 15 such instruments in the world.
“We were thrilled to hear from Dr. Brown around Christmas of 2013 that our project had been selected to be tested on the synchrotron,” said Ramsier. “Lucky for us, we were also able to test Ag Spectrum’s products and determine exactly how our products were being taken up in the plant.”
Although final research results are yet to be published, attendees of the 2014 National Dealer Seminar and Maximum Farming Club Conference in Florida were the first to hear these latest discoveries. The research should be published during summer 2014, at which time we will be able to more broadly share the impressive results discovered by Dr. Brown and his team of researchers at University of California Davis.
Ag Spectrum continues to make significant investments in basic science and research that will advance the entire agricultural community. While some investments are deemed inconclusive or insignificant, others advance and enhance the Maximum Farming System.